To East Villagers of a certain age, it came as a blow: after sixteen short years on Avenue B, the Lakeside Lounge has closed. For many of us, that bar was like our living room. I don’t mean that my friends and I spent a lot of time there—I mean it was a lot like our apartments. The Steve Keene acrylics on the walls, the mismatched bench and tables, the overflowing ashtrays. The fug.
The great advantage of the Lakeside over one’s living room was the music. This isn’t the place to talk about jukeboxes in general, much less the work of art in the age of digital reproduction, but that jukebox was a big deal. I remember making a special trip to the Lakeside one night, alone, in the snow, just to hear “Sitting on Top of the World” as performed by the Mississippi Sheiks.
I also remember stopping there for a beer by candlelight the night of the blackout. It was strange to sit there in the silence. Every other night the place was full of music. I never saw Iggy Pop or Dee Dee Ramone at the Lakeside, but I did hear Jason Morphew and the Reachers play whenever they came to town. It was there I first heard that verse, from Geoff Reacher’s “Paranoia Is Fame,” worthy of the Louvin Brothers:
Slowly my mind opens more and more
And when I’m dead it will be a beautiful flower
Blooming, choking out the weeds
Photosynthesizing starlight in the garden’s darkest hour
The other great attraction of the Lakeside was its photo booth. That machine took magically good photos, photos for the photo averse, as, for example, the poet Frederick Seidel (shown here with my sister, Anna O’Sullivan). One of the pictures was so unflattering, so off-putting, so deeply dour, that Seidel put it on the cover of his collection Ooga-Booga.